Change in Saffron Walden
I am often asked whether we are for or against housing in Saffron Walden.
At first blush this seems to be the big issue in the district and a cornerstone debate for the coming local election.
One side says they’ve tried to plan and although it has taken a while and was only recently rejected, they learned from this experience and will try harder next time. The real issue they argue is that housing is inevitable, was forced upon us and we are just caught between a rock and a hard place.
Other voices are saying, there is insufficient infrastructure to warrant more houses and the very fabric of our beautiful district is threatened. Others point, rather plausibly, to the extra burden 800 households place on traffic, schools and health care.
And the usual retort has been, but this is progress and inevitable change.
There’s a lot of noise but is it simply a choice between pro housing vs anti housing at the core of this election?
I would argue not.
It seems to me that new houses, more affordable housing (especially in a market where prices are rising exponentially) and new infrastructure have been happening to Saffron Walden and indeed Uttlesford for decades with far less rancour. Our town has changed dramatically in the last thirty years.
Yet we all appreciate our great schools, quality medical facilities and relatively uncongested roads.
We all like the way our town works and we all want to see that maintained or improved. In essence we all actually recognise the need for change and the inevitability of change.
Winston Churchill said “To improve is to change; to be perfect is to change often”.
Yet most of us also recognise the risks that come with reckless change. We have lost faith in the ability of our representatives to effect change without risking our futures.
This disconnect between the resident and the councillor is serious.
It hampers decisive action and quite simply costs time, money and resources. In the case of housing that cost is eight years, 2 million plus pounds and how much many valuable hours in manpower!
For Uttlesford; what this election is really about is TRUST.
Our representatives need to listen to the residents. The residents need to feel sufficiently empowered to participate and the combination needs to result in actionable and decisive planning.
Residents need to trust councillors to listen and councillors need to trust residents to participate.
To quote Mahatma Gandhi “You must be the change you wish to see in the world”.
No individual or party has a monopoly on good ideas or indeed good governance but until the residents are included in the decision making process the failed plans of the existing council will continue. Costs will increase and the valuable time money and talents of our district will be squandered.
Until trust is restored between resident and council we can expect more of the same. What a shame that would be.